Our interview with pioneering brand Bulletproof 360: biohacking, coffee and the future of wellness
Popularized by Dave Asprey’s bestselling book The Bulletproof Diet (closely aligned with the ketogenic or keto diet), the latest method of nutritionally fueling the body and mind is an offshoot of the rise in biohacking, where future-oriented wellness consumers use system thinking, science, biology, technology and self-experimentation to take control of and upgrade their body, mind and life. Under the guise of biohacking, a Bulletproof lifestyle challenges commonly held beliefs about human nutrition and focuses on a state of high performance. Consumers who are “living Bulletproof” believe they are supercharging their bodies, upgrading their brains and functioning optimally. To find out more about living Bulletproof, we interviewed Anna Collins, president and COO of Bulletproof 360, the Bellevue, Washington-based company behind all things Bulletproof today.
Bulletproof 360 is certainly a pioneer when it comes to turning the Standard American Diet on its head. Thinking of the cafés, is it your sense that customers are avid followers of the Bulletproof lifestyle or are they more dabbling biohackers just curious about Bulletproof coffee?
Unlike most roasters, Bulletproof sells what the coffee does for people instead of just the coffee itself (though that should taste great, too). In order to pick the locations of our first cafés, we conducted consumer research to learn where Bulletproof coffee was most popular and settled on Los Angeles for the location of the first stand-alone café. We designed the whole store to attract those interested in becoming the best versions of their self, delivering an experience that is more than just coffee.
How critical is master biohacker Dave Asprey’s podcast to the growth and success of the brand? The heritage of Bulletproof started with content, and Bulletproof Radio is a major component of Bulletproof’s content strategy.
Bulletproof Radio has played a large role in driving brand awareness and educating our consumers on everything they need to upgrade their mind, body and life. For many people, their first interaction with the Bulletproof brand is with the podcast. The Webby Award-winning podcast continues to be a great resource for those curious about a wide range of health & wellness topics, and we believe it’s critical to the growth of our brand. The show also recently received its 75 millionth download since launch.
Bulletproof seems to be disrupting the traditional notion of nutrition and what shows up in packaged foods right now. With so much buzz on good fat being more important for health than sugar, how can consumers who are struggling with brain fog and lack of energy feel better by coming into a Bulletproof café?
Customers can start by enjoying a Bulletproof coffee: coffee made with Bulletproof coffee beans, grass-fed, unsalted butter and Brain Octane oil. But Bulletproof beverages are just the beginning; there is so much more to experience at our cafés:
With a healthy round of funding bolstering company growth this past summer, can consumers expect to see Bulletproof showing up in more brick-and-mortar retailers and new cafés, or will the focus be on ecommerce?
Bulletproof’s goal is to make our key products more accessible to people across the country. This will include up-leveling the experience on bulletproof.com in addition to expanding our assortment on amazon.com and in food and drug. We recently expanded our distribution in 770 of Vitamin Shoppe stores in the last month.
With the latest round of funding, what’s next for Bulletproof when it comes to delivering on disruptive better-for-you products?
With this extra capital in hand and rocket-ship-like growth, Bulletproof is expanding across all sales channels and product categories. Right now we’re selling products through bulletproof.com, Amazon, Bulletproof cafés and more than 3,000 retail outlets, like Whole Foods, Wegmans and Sprouts. We’re also expanding the promotion of the brain-and-body-fueling Bulletproof lifestyle through multiple media channels — the blog, Bulletproof Radio podcast, our events and Dave Asprey’s New York Times bestselling books — with a new one, called Game Changers, on the way this December.
Is it fair to say that Bulletproof’s mission is to deliver lasting energy, no cravings and better cognitive performance?
Yes, Bulletproof’s products are intentionally developed to deliver lasting energy, eliminate cravings and boost cognitive performance. However, Bulletproof’s mission is much bigger: to radically transform people’s lives, helping them feel and perform better while meeting their health and wellness goals – losing weight, getting stronger, learning to meditate or improving mental sharpness. Bulletproof is the state of high performance where one’s body, mind and nervous system work together effortlessly to help you perform at levels beyond what you’d expect.
The café locations tend to cater to the younger tech crowd. Are there expectations that Bulletproof cafés will sprout in suburbia in the near future?
Opening cafés in a variety of urban locations will push Bulletproof beyond its usual base of techies, celebrities and biohackers. The long-term vision is to share the Bulletproof lifestyle to many more people and make the products more accessible. However, the goal is not to be the next Starbucks. The goal is to take this idea of continuous improvement and bring it to people in a way that they can feel it and bring it into their daily habits. It's basically an upgrade to what each and every person can do in the morning.
What is the biggest challenge to getting folks on board? Is it our collective fear of fat or are we truly just addicted to sugar?
It’s difficult to generalize each person’s wellness journey, but we’ve noticed a few different themes when a person is considering a change – even a small one – in their lifestyle. We have learned that most people are bombarded with so much misinformation about what to eat and what not eat. It’s difficult to filter fact from fiction. This includes the perception of fat, what is a good fat and why it’s an important part of anyone’s diet. It’s unfortunate, because the right intake of fat can improve satiety and reduce cravings for sugar.
Also, we have learned that, for most, change is difficult — whether there is fear or not, any kind of change in routine requires a commitment. That’s why Bulletproof offers a range of solutions to help with small or big changes. If someone can swap out their high-sugar energy bar for a Bulletproof collagen bar, that is progress.
How is Bulletproof shifting eating culture in America?
Bulletproof is shifting how Americans think about what they put in their bodies, how they manage health and how they think about optimal performance. Just five years ago, no one would even dare to put butter in their coffee; however, Bulletproof has started somewhat of a craze: for example, an executive at Twitter has lobbied to get Bulletproof served in the company canteen, Bulletproof can be found in the corporate offices at Google, Goldman Sachs, Microsoft and amongst high-profile Hollywood starlets like Shailene Woodley, Halle Berry, Bethenny Frankel and Ellie Goulding, among many others. Other brands are also following suit, jumping on the Bulletproof craze. Bulletproof copycat products have become available in mass form. Even Starbucks has created a “keto drink” to accommodate those that follow Bulletproof standards. Top-tier media companies are also developing easy-to-recreate keto recipes to showcase ways to rejigger popular items, like a Wendy’s Frosty, into a “Bulletproof-approved” dish.
As leaders in the study of American food culture, The Hartman Group has been tracking how Americans shop for food since the 1990s. From one-stop shopping to multichannel shopping to online markets and click-and-collect, we continue to track consumers’ evolving perceptions, needs, habits and relationships with food retailers. New to the 2017 report is a special section on the expansion of the discount grocery channel, the emerging fresh-format channel and smaller-footprint retail formats.